Sitting on the floor surrounded by torn wrapping paper, scattered bows, and half-assembled toys, G. glances at the clock and realizes it is just after 12:00. A. is running around the room with uncontrolled excitement, carrying his new remote controlled Lightning McQueen and asking for batteries. All the while, E. is sucking on the muzzle of his new teddy bear. In previous years they would just be arriving at C.’s house, ready to have a second, significantly inferior round of Christmas morning. G’s mind scans through memories of those other years: Thank God we decided to not do THAT this year.
On the way home from Christmas Eve dinner last night, G. commented to DH how she hadn’t enjoyed Christmas dinner with her family that much in years – in as long as she can remember in her adult life, in fact. She even pointed out that DH, himself, seemed to have a great time; something that has never happened in the Christmas Eve history of their entire relationship. DH sarcastically denied that G. had picked up on his enjoyment. In all seriousness, however, neither of them could deny that this year, something was different.
The “different” feeling extended through into Christmas morning. All morning G. has been having a hard time picking out exactly what the difference is. Her mother, who is usually a perfectionistic passive-aggressive force, is unnervingly calm and genuinely excited. J. and her (much older) boyfriend arrive with their mountains of gifts and for the first Christmas in a long time, there is no tension between anyone, for any reason. A. is excited to open presents but is still just a bit too young to really understand everything that’s going on. E., well, he’s just along for the ride. Everyone knows that his year is different, somehow, but no one can really figure it out.
The presents are opened slowly. The kids first. A. is excited for every present he opens (well, except for the clothes) and he wants to play with each one before he moves onto the next present. DH restricts him a little just to keep things moving. G. occupies E. with a careful combination of ribbons, bows, and the new toys that she is unwrapping for him. Once the kids’ gifts are opened, everyone takes a break: G. breastfeeds E. and puts him down for a nap, while DH sets up A’s new mini-tent, completely furnishing the interior with new toy trucks and books and even a new keyboard. J. offers to make everyone a second round of coffee before the gift opening festivities resume. A carefully orchestrated chaos ensues as the adults all open their gifts to each other while also pandering to the needs of an overly excited, sugar-filled 2-year-old. The chaos is welcome because it is a new, different, enjoyable chaos that G. can’t ever remember experiencing before on a Christmas morning.
It’s just after 12:00. It is all over. Santa has come and gone, the gifts are open, and G. sits back to absorb the pure Christmas Joy. Everyone is looking at their gifts with smiles on their faces, they are chatting and laughing, reading instructions, taking pictures, playing… And G. is reminded that this Christmas is maybe the best Christmas of them all.
She can’t figure out just what the difference is.
Maybe it’s because Christmas was done differently by G. and DH this year. In a few subtle ways, an attempt was made to make new family traditions; to make Christmas about the family and not about everyone else. Could this be the reason that everything is so different?
G. and DH did Christmas their way. They made some people upset (okay, maybe just one person) by suggesting that things be done differently. But, boundaries were set and decisions were adhered to, and G. is happy. DH is happy. And, the boys are happy. On Christmas morning, amongst the beautiful mess of Christmas wrappings and gifts, surrounded by the happy and smiling people that she loves, G. knows that whatever the difference is, it is a good difference and she’s glad it happened.
Written in Response to the Daily Writing Prompt